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President Rodrigo Duterte during his State of the National Address forced a muted applause when he asked his audience of legislators why they were not applauding his call for the revival of the death penalty for drug-related offenses. 

The President’s recommendation to the Congress to reimpose the death penalty aggravates his failure to disclose and discuss his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic which is a death sentence to countless Filipinos.

The hesitance of the Members of the Congress to express their assent is obvious because there are no less than 12 overriding reasons against the reimposition of capital punishment.  

The major reasons include the following:

  1. There is no empirical data in the Philippines and worldwide which document that the death penalty is an effective deterrent to the commission of heinous crimes. In fact, while the death penalty has been imposed since the dawn of civilization, heinous crimes persist and mock the capital punishment.

  2. The death penalty desecrates the right to life which is sacrosanct and inviolable, and it is an affront to human dignity. Pope Francis instructs that the “inviolability of life extends to the criminal.”

  3. The death penalty exacerbates the culture of violence and its revival adds to the unabated extrajudicial killings consequent to the Duterte Administration’s deadly campaign against the drug menace. 

  4. The death penalty cannot be prioritized over the long-delayed reforms in our flawed police, prosecutorial and judicial systems which make genuine justice illusory to the vast majority of our people.

  5. The death penalty further marginalizes and victimizes the poor who can neither retain competent counsel nor influence court decisions, unlike the rich and powerful.

  6. Capital punishment enforces punitive and retributory justice instead of promoting the modern and progressive concept of penology on restorative justice which aims to reform the convict and prepare his reintegration into society. 

  7. The revival of the death penalty utterly fails to consider that human justice is fallible and even the innocent can be executed.

  8. The 1987 Constitution abolished the death penalty, although the Congress is allowed to reimpose it on heinous crimes for compelling reasons. These two (2) conditions on “heinous crimes” and “compelling reasons” are separate but concurrent. The heinousness of a crime is not determinative of the compelling reason. They are not synonymous. 

  9. As a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Second Protocol on the ICCPR, the Philippines is committed to abolish the death penalty and not to reimpose it. Even the 1988 UN Drug Convention, to which the Philippines is also a State Party, does not prescribe the death penalty for drug-related offenses.

  10. There are serious economic repercussions if the Philippines reimposes the death penalty as we would lose free tariff privileges on our exports to European Union countries which require adherence to human rights.  

  11. If the death penalty is revived, the Philippine will lose moral ascendancy in negotiating for the lifting of the death sentences of Filipino OFWs numbering almost 100 worldwide. 

  12. The irreversible trend is the diminishing number of countries imposing the death penalty. Out of 195 countries recorded by the United Nations, only 37 retain the death penalty both in law and in practice. Only four (4) countries, namely China, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia account for 90% of executions.